U.N. agency suspends services in Gaza after violent protest

  • Updated: April 5, 2013 - 8:47 PM

– The U.N. Relief and Works Agency has indefinitely suspended food distribution in the Gaza Strip after protesters angry over the curtailing of a cash-assistance program for the poor stormed the agency’s main compound in Gaza City on Thursday, an official said Friday.

“There will be no food tomorrow,” said Adnan Abu-Hasna, a spokesman for the agency, which provides nutrition, education, health and other services to about 815,000 Palestinian refugees, nearly half of Gaza’s population. “The food-distribution centers and the relief offices will be closed in the coming days unless there’s a real security being provided to the life of our staff, because there is a great concern about their safety.”

The agency provides three-month rations of flour, oil, sugar, rice and other staples to about 25,000 people a day through scores of centers scattered throughout Gaza’s refugee camps. While they and the relief offices that provide psychological and other support are shuttered, the 246 schools and 21 health clinics that the United Nations runs in Gaza will operate as usual.

Ismail Haniya, prime minister of Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, told reporters Friday that his government would pursue “urgent and quick talks” with the agency in hopes of restoring the food distribution and other services “in a state of security and stability.”

Israeli and Palestinian security forces were on high alert Friday for protests after the noon prayers, but by 2 p.m. no major incidents had been reported. Access to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City was limited to women and men older than 50 to prevent clashes that have become routine there in recent months.

Tony Blair, the international Middle East peace envoy, issued a statement Friday expressing concern “about the deteriorating security situation.”

New York Times

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    Associated Press

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